Gotta Captcha Them All (Benefits of CAPTCHA)


Oct 09

You’ve probably seen a Captcha recently as you peruse the internet – sometimes it’s a distorted code that you have to type in, or answering a question from a list of answers. My personal favourite is the new “puzzle” one, where you drag the appropriate piece to complete a small picture. But other than adding an extra 30 seconds to the task at hand, what purpose do they serve?


Captcha is actually an acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart”. Although technology has improved exponentially, this is one of the few ways that we’re able to win over a computer mind because we are able to interpret distorted text & images. Visually impaired? There’s an audio Captcha for that. Programs may exist one day that can beat the Captcha, but they are certainly not commonplace at this point in time (thank goodness).


The purpose of a Captcha is to stop spam, whether it is being generated by a bot, a script or a malicious program. If you’ve ever had an email address, then you’ve probably gotten a spam email before. Many of these are disguised as attractive offers (“You’ve won a prize!”), or appear to have come from a bank (“Your account has been compromised”), or even look like a message from someone you know (“Hey bud, check this link out.”). The end goal of most spam is to collect information for someone else’s purpose – then they can sell it or use it for their personal gain, which in turn could directly affect you in a negative way.


For example – let’s say you have a “contact us” form on your website, with no Captcha. It’s very likely that every now and then you’ll receive an email from your form that just doesn’t make sense and isn’t relevant to your business. Click delete, problem solved. But over time, you start to receive more and more of these emails, and decide to set up a spam filter on your inbox…except now you may actually have emails from potential clients being filtered into this because they too are using that form on your site. And it could get worse – some spam emails contain malicious links that can go as far as infecting your computer, giving someone else access to your data. Including your personal database of client emails, phone numbers, addresses, personal information…all compromised.


That is a worst-case scenario, but it still could, and has, happened to business owners all over the world. One notable example of this is Target. They had a data breach back in 2013 that was thought to have affected over 70 million people, with some reports saying over 100 million. When they hired a security company to investigate, one of the leading theories was that the breach was caused by malicious email – specifically a phishing email that went after their customer base. They had a vendor portal that did not have a Captcha or any kind of “human verification” in place, so a bot was able to get into the system and start transmitting data back to people who weren’t supposed to have it.


Want to minimize the amount of spam email you receive from your site forms? Contact us and we can get one in place! With the help of our in-office technical team, we have added Captchas to many of our customers’ websites to give them an extra level of protection – and help make sure that the emails they receive are from real people (or at the minimum, very realistic robots who have an interest in the product or service they’re offering…who knows, right? It is 2015 after all).